In 1959, a group of volunteers from the Junior League of Memphis started the Youth Museum project at the Pink Palace. They created touchable exhibits and led tours for school children. After several years of working with the museum, League volunteers Sara Misner and Merri Briggs founded the Friends of the Pink Palace Museum as an official, independent support group for the Pink Palace Family of Museums on June 13, 1968. Over the years, the Friends have served the museum in many capacities. They published Tales of a River Town, a children’s history of Memphis, and owned and operated the museum gift shop throughout the 1970s.
In 1972, the Pink Palace Museum began a campaign to expand the size and scope of the museum. The Friends pledged a large donation for the project. They held the first Mid-South Crafts Fair in October 1973 to raise the funds. The first fair was held on the front lawn of the mansion and included roughly thirty craftspeople, three tents, and two food vendors. For many years, the Friends used one of the tents as a Country Store that sold refreshments such as popcorn, pickles on a stick and hollowed out lemons with peppermint sticks inside. The yearly fair eventually outgrew the museum’s neighborhood and was moved to the west side of the lake at Audubon Park in 1989. Worried that people would not find them in their new space, the Friends tied pink ribbons on the telephone poles leading from the museum to their new location at the park. In 1995, the Friends moved the fair again to its current location on the east side of the lake. The Crafts Fair now hosts over 300 craftspeople over three days each fall. It also includes demonstration crafts such as rug hooking and broom making and homemade foods, including the Friends’ homemade donuts. The Crafts Fair remains the single largest fundraiser for the Pink Palace Museum.
The Friends also serve as docents for exhibits and as volunteers at Lichterman Nature Center and the Mallory-Neely house. Additionally, they host staff appreciation luncheons and hold other fundraising events, such as the annual Stomp in the Swamp at Lichterman Nature Center, to raise money for the continued support of the museum. For more information about joining the Friends, please visit http://www.memphismuseums.org/join_the_friends/